Roquan Smith is a great soccer player. His last four years made him the most productive defender Chicago Bears have Most would agree that he is now their best player overall. As a result, he is looking to become the highest paid linebacker in football. There is nothing wrong with that. He is well within his rights to do so. However, the way he went about things, it seems it was more detrimental than helpful to his cause.
The trade request seems to have caught GM Ryan Poles by surprise. He felt that the two sides were making progress towards an agreement. Then things got even worse when rumors surfaced that a “representative” of Smith was evaluating interest from other teams without permission from the Bruins. Everything about this situation suggests that the linebacker thinks he has more leverage in the situation than he actually does.
Let’s start with the bottom line.
Chicago holds his contract rights through all of 2022. That was clear the moment they picked up his five-year option. On top of that, they can also exercise the franchise tag to keep him until 2023. So Poles and company can play the waiting game. They have no reason to bow to Smith’s demands. Remember, he never outplayed this new 4-3 defense Matt Eberflus is installed That element of the unknown should give them at least some pause.
That brings us to the heart of the matter. Smith wants everyone to think that losing him would be a doomsday scenario for the Bruins. Without his presence, the defense will regress into oblivion. Unfortunately for him, a significant amount of evidence suggests that his exit from the picture would be more of an inconvenience than a devastating blow, especially in the long run.
Ryan Poles and Roquan Smith are in a tight contest, and each side has some valid points. We broke down the contract talk/trade request saga in the latest Under Center Podcast.
– Josh Schrock (@Schrock_And_Awe) August 12, 2022
Roquan Smith wouldn’t be the first big linebacker to come out.
The Baltimore Colts traded three-time Pro Bowler Ted Hendricks to the Green Bay Packers in 1974. Their defense ranked 21st in the NFL during his final season. That year he was away, they improved to 14th. Then in 1975, they finished 12th. Fast forward to 1988. Bears fans are probably familiar with the name Wilber Marshall. The two-time Pro Bowler was coming off a great season in 1987 and wanted a new contract. When the Bears wouldn’t give it to him, he signed with the Washington Redskins in exchange for two first round picks. It was a painful loss for fans, but not so much for the team. Chicago had the #2 defense in the NFL their first season without him.
It doesn’t end there. In 2008, the New York Jets traded Pro Bowl linebacker Jonathan Vilma to the New Orleans Saints. That first year without him, their defense was mediocre at 16th in the NFL (a slight improvement from 18th the year before). Then in 2009, they were the #1 overall defense in the league. The point is that Roquan Smith is not irreplaceable. History shows that losing a top linebacker could slow down a defense at first.
However, it is as if they have never been there within a year or two.
Having Smith makes the defense better. That is true. He is great at cleaning up teammates’ mistakes. However, let’s not forget that the Bears still had the 23rd ranked run defense last year during their prime so far and were 22nd in points allowed. His number of impact plays is not out of the ordinary for all the tackles he has compiled: five interceptions and one forced fumble in four years. Robert Quinn quadrupled the latter in one season. He also had more sacks in 2021 than Smith had in his career.
Keep all of this in mind as the contract saga continues to unfold.
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